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Brominated flame retardants: cause for concern?

Brominated flame retardants (BFRs) have routinely been added to consumer products for several decades in a successful effort to reduce fire-related injury and property damage. Recently, concern for this emerging class of chemicals has risen because of the occurrence of several classes of BFRs in the environment and in human biota. The widespread production and use of BFRs; strong evidence of increasing contamination of the environment, wildlife, and people; and limited knowledge of potential effects heighten the importance of identifying emerging issues associated with the use of BFRs. In this article, we briefly review scientific issues associated with the use of tetrabromobisphenol A, hexabromocyclododecane, and three commercial mixtures of polybrominated diphenyl ethers and discuss data gaps. Overall, the toxicology database is very limited; the current literature is incomplete and often conflicting. Available data, however, raise concern over the use of certain classes of brominated flame retardants.